A more sustainable future demands better collaboration with young Australians

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Increased intergenerational collaboration to unleash the power of Australia’s next generation of entrepreneurs is key to solving global challenges, said experts who gathered today in Sydney at the ‘Creating a More Sustainable World’ forum.

Hosted by Unilever and the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), the forum delved into social and environmental issues facing the planet, and the vital role that young people can play in developing sustainable and inclusive business models to combat climate change, eradicate poverty and end inequality for all.

The forum was a unique opportunity for leaders across government, corporate and non-profit sectors to hear first-hand about the obstacles confronting young entrepreneurs. Leaders said assistance was needed to scale up, facilitating greater collaboration between young people and organisations as well as support to manage their own mental and physical resilience for the long-term. A constant theme coming out of the discussion was the need to transform existing institutions and systems in our society to align the needs of business, society and the environment.

A number of challenges facing young social entrepreneurs were discussed at the event, including the need for better education around mental health for entrepreneurs, who often feel the weight of solving the world’s issues; the need for a change in the way we structure schooling, to build the skills for the future world of work; and the power of better collaboration between business and entrepreneurs which, if addressed, could help scale up social and environmental solutions.

Participants included Founder of the Institute for Global Women Leaders, Rosie O’Halloran; CEO of the Youth Food Movement, Alexandra Iljadica and connected like-minded thinkers with business leaders from Unilever, Commonwealth Bank, Kimberley Clark, MLC and Citi Australia as well as NGO’s such as WWF and Sustainable Business Australia.

Clive Stiff, CEO of Unilever Australia and New Zealand said the event aimed to start a conversation about how business, government and the non-profit sector can work together with our entrepreneurial young people to deliver a fairer, more inclusive, more sustainable world.

“At Unilever, we have a clear purpose: to make sustainable living commonplace. Our vision is to decouple our growth from our environmental impact while at the same time increasing our positive social impact,” Mr Stiff said.

“This is an opportunity to inspire, support, and collaborate with a new generation of brilliant young change-makers and passionate innovators who are putting their ideas into action and in many cases are well ahead of business in addressing complex global issues. This is why we launched the Unilever Young Entrepreneur Awards – it is a tremendous opportunity to nurture a new generation of the world’s most progressive young thinkers needed to lead us into a more sustainable future.”

Global forces of economic and social change, the effects of which have currently produced 75 million un/underemployed young people around the world, demonstrate why we must engage young people to contribute to and drive the change and create the world they want to see.

“There are 4.3 million young people in Australia today, by 2053 this is predicted to rise to 6.3 million. Our young people are our greatest untapped resource – brimming with ideas to drive change, but few with the support and resources to make these ideas a reality,” FYA CEO, Jan Owen AM said.

“In the face of massive global challenges: the survival of the planet; rising inequality which sees 1% of the planet own 99% of the wealth; and, in Australia, an ageing population which will see our workforce decrease to 2.5 workers for every 5 retirees in the decades to come, we are going to need fresh ideas and unfettered thinking.

It is absolutely vital that we provide them with opportunities, back their ideas and encourage enterprise to develop their innovation capacity – which is what FYA aims to do through initiative like Young Social Pioneers and Innovation Nation.”

Founder of the Institute for Global Women Leaders, Rosie O’Halloran said there was a real need for collaboration amongst entrepreneurs and business, “there is a need for not-for-profits to establish deeper ties with business in order to share ideas and tap into resources. NFPs should also look at collaborating with each other. By mapping out stakeholder groups you may be able to identify someone who has already solved one of your problems and you will be able to share the burden of the bigger problem with them.”

“Entrepreneurs need more opportunities to share their mistakes with other entrepreneurs to normalise the fact that we aren’t perfect. It will improve mental health and ensure we don’t feel weighed down by the social issues we are trying to solve. Businesses can also play a key role connecting entrepreneurs through networking events to make collaboration easier and more effective,” said Alex Iljadica, Founding Director at Youth Food Movement Australia.